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Diptheria strike in 1900

A team of horses couldn't be found one day in Jamestown.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

There was a bit of a epidemic in the area in 1900.

The Jamestown Alert reported in February 1900 some folks in Wells, Foster and the northern part of Stutsman counties were coming down with diphtheria.

Diphtheria is bacterial disease that causes inflammation of the throat and nasal passages that can hinder problems breathing and swallowing. In bad cases, the toxins affect the heart muscle.

It can be fatal but has been virtually eliminated through vaccinations which became available in the 1920s.

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The 1900 epidemic did not spread through the general population. Newspaper articles of the day indicated it was centered around the Newhome settlement in Stutsman County.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Newhome was about 10 miles northwest of Woodworth. The community of Newhome had a store, pool hall, livery stable and a post office in 1900.

To meet postal regulations of the time, the town’s name officially was spelled as one word although some maps of that era spelled it out as “New Home.” The community faded away in the 1920s.

There is another oddity to the 1900 diphtheria epidemic. The disease was predominately striking the Germans from Russia settlers while their neighbors from places like Sweden and Norway remained healthy.

Doctors of the era blamed that on tight homes with little ventilation lived in by the Germans from Russia, according to The Jamestown Alert.

County health officials instituted quarantines for anyone who came down with the disease.

“A few days since the postmaster at New Home fractured the quarantine regulations and visited Sykeston,” wrote the Alert. “The residents of that thriving village were greatly alarmed.”

The Alert noted there were treatments for diphtheria available that helped people feel better.

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“The greatest trouble is in keeping the persons quarantined from violating the rules,” noted The Jamestown Alert.

No official statistics are available the outbreak at Newhome was reported as 30 to 40 cases with about 10 deaths by The Jamestown Alert.

Diphtheria outbreaks continued across North Dakota through 1900 with major problems reported in Valley City in August of that year.

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